Trace element models for mantle melting: application to volcanic arc petrogenesis

Pearce, Julian A. and Parkinson, Ian J. (1993). Trace element models for mantle melting: application to volcanic arc petrogenesis. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 76 pp. 373–403.




Understanding mantle melting above subduction zones requires an evaluation of the behaviour of elements for which the mantle contribution greatly exceeds any subduction contribution. In this paper we present a compilation of partition coefficients for a suite of these elements (Nb, Zr, Y, Yb, Ca, Al, Ga, V, Sc, Fe, Mn, Co, Cr, Mg, Ni) for temperatures of 1200–1300°C, oxygen fugacities of QFM ± 1 and sub-alkaline compositions. These coefficients yield good-fit mantle depletion trends for abyssal, orogenic and trench-wall peridotites. Modelling of pooled melts from mantle melting columns, presented as FMM (fertile MORB mantle) normalized patterns, give signatures of the composition and degree of melting of the mantle wedge that are generally independent of the subduction component. In particular, patterns formed from melting of fertile mantle exhibit normalized element abundances in the order VHI > HI > MI (VHI = very highly incompatible, HI = highly incompatible and MI = moderately incompatible) at low degrees of melting, becoming VHI = HI = MI at high degrees of melting. With derivation from progressively depleted sources, the patterns for moderate degrees of melting change to VHI < HI = MI at moderate degrees of depletion and VHI < HI < MI at high degrees of depletion.

The details, but not the principles, can be varied by changing the shape of the melting column, the porosity of the mantle during melting, the potential temperature of the mantle, and the temperature and depth of initiation of melting. Bivariate plots of elements of contrasting compatibilities (Cr-Yb, Sc-Yb, Nb-Yb) can be contoured according to the degree of depletion or enrichment of the mantle and the degree of melting, with selected plots also emphasizing the role of garnet (Ti-Yb) and oxygen fugacity (V-Yb). Evaluation of data from present-day volcanic arcs suggests that: (1) intra-oceanic arcs with associated active backarc basins are derived principally from fertile MORB mantle that has lost up to about 3% melt in a previous melting event; (2) this depletion takes place in spinel lherzolite facies, supporting models that relate it to backarc basin melting events; (3) oceanic arcs with no associated backarc basins are derived principally from fertile MORB mantle, though enriched sources can be important locally; (4) intra-continental arcs are commonly derived from enriched mantle, probably because of the involvement of sub-continental lithosphere; (5) degrees of melting are probably high (in the order of 25–30%) in intra-oceanic arcs on thin crust, decreasing to 150r less in areas of thicker lithosphere; (6) some 10% melting can be explained by volatile addition to the mantle, the remainder by decompression.

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